Sunday, July 12, 2020

Mueller - Stone's conviction stands, those 'who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity.'

In a WaPo op-ed, Robert Mueller explains why Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so. Here it is.

Robert S. Mueller III served as special counsel for the Justice Department from 2017 to 2019.

The work of the special counsel’s office — its report, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions — should speak for itself. But I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office. The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.

Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood. By late 2016, the FBI had evidence that the Russians had signaled to a Trump campaign adviser that they could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to the Democratic candidate. And the FBI knew that the Russians had done just that: Beginning in July 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen by Russian military intelligence officers from the Clinton campaign. Other online personas using false names — fronts for Russian military intelligence — also released Clinton campaign emails.

Following FBI Director James B. Comey’s termination in May 2017, the acting attorney general named me as special counsel and directed the special counsel’s office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The order specified lines of investigation for us to pursue, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. One of our cases involved Stone, an official on the campaign until mid–2015 and a supporter of the campaign throughout 2016. Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons: He communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers.

We now have a detailed picture of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate. We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel — Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities. The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.

Uncovering and tracing Russian outreach and interference activities was a complex task. The investigation to understand these activities took two years and substantial effort. Based on our work, eight individuals pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, and more than two dozen Russian individuals and entities, including senior Russian intelligence officers, were charged with federal crimes.

Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.

The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands.

Russian efforts to interfere in our political system, and the essential question of whether those efforts involved the Trump campaign, required investigation. In that investigation, it was critical for us (and, before us, the FBI) to obtain full and accurate information. Likewise, it was critical for Congress to obtain accurate information from its witnesses. When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. It may ultimately impede those efforts.

We made every decision in Stone’s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.

Inside the Never Trumpers - winning a tangle with Trump

Frank Bruni at the NY Times tells us about The Republicans Who Want to Destroy Trump. Their party’s a lost cause. America isn’t.

Should you have any doubt about how passionately George Conway and the other Never Trumpers at the Lincoln Project want to defeat the president, check out their ads.

There are dozens at this point, and the best are minute-long masterpieces of derision, miniature operas of contempt, designed to get into President Trump’s head and deep under his skin. That’s exactly where they’ve burrowed.

After the release of “Mourning in America,” which turned Ronald Reagan’s famous “Morning in America” commercial on its head, Trump had one of his trademark Twitter meltdowns. He shrieked at Conway in particular, mentioning his marriage to one of Trump’s brashest aides.

What motivates the Never Trumpers?

… while they have ideological quibbles with Trump, they’re motivated principally by their belief that he’s something of a monster.

"It’s an unprecedented moment,” said Charlie Sykes, a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark, a Trump-bashing publication begun in 2018 by Trump-disgusted Republicans like him. Sykes no longer considers himself a Republican. He described himself to me as “a politically homeless contrarian conservative.”

The Bulwark shares personnel and DNA with Republican Voters Against Trump and Republicans for the Rule of Law, all bastions of Never Trumpers. There’s also a new super PAC called 43 Alumni for Biden, a reference to George W. Bush, the 43rd president. It comprises scores of alumni of his administration who want to see Biden beat Trump, and it intends to release testimonials from former senior Bush administration officials.

… when I look at them, I see patriotism, though John Weaver — who, along with Conway, helped to found the Lincoln Project — emphasized a different idea when we spoke. He stressed atonement.

Trump’s election made him revisit how he and other Republican strategists had paved the way for Trump. For instance, Weaver worked for the man who was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump for president.

“Jeff Sessions wouldn’t have gotten to the Senate had I not overseen his race in 1996,” Weaver told me. “Now I look back at that and say, ‘What kind of goddamn penance do I have to pay for that?’”

Sykes spoke of “a revelation” that he has experienced, courtesy of Trump. “The heart of politics is not about the policy,” he told me. “It’s about the values. I can disagree with you on eight out of 10 issues, but if you’re an honorable, honest, empathetic human being, we can do business.” Trump is none of those things. Biden is most or all of them — and will get Sykes’s vote in November.

In exile he and other Never Trumpers have found clarity. They cut to the heart of the matter. That’s reflected in a Lincoln Project ad from late May that begins with a close-up of body bags and then pulls back until those bags form an American flag. These words appear over it: “100,000 Dead Americans. One Wrong President.”

I don’t know that they’ll tip the election. But they sure as hell tell it like it is.

Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for the tip.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The coronavirus is a 'hurricane coming.' Stay-at-home may be the only way to survive that storm.

Time to shut down again? As coronavirus cases surge, a growing chorus makes the case reports the Washington Post. Here is a short version with excerpts.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is reluctant to recommend a new round of stay-at-home. However, with Arizona and other states experiencing a major surge that overwhelms hospitals, some experts see that as the only hope of controlling the spiking coronavirus pandemic.

“Stay-at-home is a blunt instrument,” said Farshad Fani Marvasti, director of public health at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix. “But when you’re leading the world in new cases and things don’t seem to be getting better, you may have to use that blunt instrument."

"We see the hurricane coming. In some places, it’s already here,” said Thomas Tsai, a Harvard health policy researcher and surgeon. “The question is whether you’re going to evacuate your citizens from the path.”

The evidence so far, Tsai said, suggests not.

“We’re watching this unfold and we’re frozen,” he said.

At the Harvard Global Health Institute, with which Tsai is affiliated, researchers recently put together a national tracker to assess the severity of the outbreak in all 50 states.

As of Thursday, 15 of them were in a state of “accelerated spread,” meaning that stay-at-home orders should at least be considered, along with aggressive testing and tracing programs.

Another five — Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia — were flashing red. In those states, the outbreaks are so advanced that researchers say stay-at-home measures are no longer optional. They should be mandatory.

In Arizona, cumulative deaths topped 2,000 on Thursday and daily hospitalizations hit another high. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has urged people to stay home when possible, and he has reinstated closures of bars, water parks, movie theaters and gyms.

But so far, that hasn’t been sufficient. The case counts continue to rise in a way that public health experts say is reminiscent of the exponential growth that the world’s worst-hit places experienced earlier this year, before stay-at-home orders kicked in.

“We don’t want to become another New York, another Italy,” Marvasti said. “But that’s where we’re headed. We need to learn our lesson from these places.”

Read more at the Washington Post’s report. My reading indicates that the essence of the ongoing debate reduces to three options. (1) Continue opening up and live with more deaths. (2) Pause the opening and slow the increasing number of cases. (3) Shut down, order stay-at-home, and live with the economic impact.

'Genuine disaster unfolding' - Trump's war on children, Part 2

On July 11, also from Heather Cox Richardson:

… the biggest story remains the coronavirus. Today the U.S. had more than 68,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, the seventh single-day record in the last 11 days. Yesterday’s number—also a record—was 59,886. Our death toll has topped 136,000, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top advisor to the president on the coronavirus, says he hasn’t briefed the president in two months, and is not being allowed on television because of his dire warnings about the pandemic.

The Republican governors of Florida, Arizona, and Texas, where infections are spiking, are caught between the reality of the virus and Republican ideology.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has been refusing to release data on hospitalizations, but the state today revealed that there are almost 7000 Floridians in Florida hospitals, sick with Covid–19. Florida is now one of the world’s epicenters for the disease, but DeSantis says he will not slow the state’s reopening.

In Arizona, now leading the U.S. in the growth of new Covid–19 cases with 4,221 new cases today, Governor Doug Ducey has ordered bars, movie theaters, gyms, and water parks closed to stop the spread of the virus. Bar owners are suing him.

And in Texas, where Houston hospitals have run out of room for more patients and are turning them away, county Republican parties have voted to censure Governor Greg Abbott for requiring face masks to slow the spread of the virus. They say such an order is government overreach.

And in this pandemic environment, we’re going to put our kids in the riskiest situations: packed classrooms.

Just so Trump can score a political point for himself. Moms and dads - quit whining. Teachers and staff just suck it up. Dead children? Not a matter of whether, just when.

Other than that - here’s a multiple choice quiz.

Which of these do you find most revolting?

(a) Arizona bar owners

(b) Texas county Republican parties

(c) Florida governor who won’t release COVID–19 stats but will reopen anyway

'Genuine disaster unfolding' - Trump's war on children, Part 1

In her morning email (for July 10), Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) sumarizes House Armed Services hearing.

… the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and took a stand against the Confederate flag, Confederate statues, and Confederate names on U.S. Army bases, in strong opposition to Trump. Talking of those Confederate generals whose names are now on U.S. bases, Milley said, “those officers turned their back on their oath…. It was an act of treason, at the time, against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the US Constitution."

At the same hearing, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that he had, in fact, been informed that Russia had offered money to Taliban fighters to kill American and allied troops in Afghanistan, so it was not a “hoax,” as the president has insisted. While Esper tried hard to speak carefully enough that he did not antagonize the president, defense officials have told CNN that both Esper and Milley are worried that Trump is politicizing the military, and are determined not to let him drag it into the election campaign.

Charlie Sykes in the Bulwark.com reports that “it’s worthwhile to take note of a genuine disaster unfolding around us.”

Yesterday we once again saw the largest one-day spike in COVID–19 infections. Hospitals around the country are filling up.

And Trump is tweeting out fiats, while sidelining the folks who might be able to navigate us through this.

Here’s the nightmare scenario: an ignorant and narcissistic president who pushes for a premature reopening of the nation’s schools, not because we have a plan to do so prudently, but because it serves his re-election agenda.

As the country enters a frightening phase of the pandemic with new daily cases surpassing 62,000 on Wednesday, the CDC, the nation’s top public health agency, is coming under intense pressure from President Trump and his allies, who are downplaying the dangers in a bid to revive the economy ahead of the Nov. 3 election. In a White House guided by the president’s instincts, rather than by evidence-based policy, the CDC finds itself forced constantly to backtrack or sidelined from pivotal decisions.

The latest clash between the White House and its top public health advisers erupted Wednesday, when the president slammed the agency’s recommendation that schools planning to reopen should keep students’ desks six feet apart, among other steps to reduce infection risks. In a tweet, Trump — who has demanded schools at all levels hold in-person classes this fall — called the advice “very tough & expensive.”

“While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump tweeted Wednesday. Within hours, Vice President Pence had asserted the agency would release new guidance next week.

“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence told reporters. “And that’s the reason next week the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools.”

Read the whole thing in the Wapo.

UPDATE: A new poll shows that Trump’s ratings on his handling of the coronavirus continue to crater:

President Donald Trump is facing broad disapproval for his management of the two major crises gripping the nation, with two-thirds of Americans giving him low marks for both his response to the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of race relations, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday.

Evaluation of Trump’s oversight of the COVID–19 crisis reached a new low since ABC News/Ipsos began surveying on the coronavirus in March, with 67% disapproving of his efforts. One-third of the country approves of the president’s oversight of the pandemic.

Trump hit a high point back in March: 55% approval, 43% disapproval; it flipped soon after. As of this week the poll reported 33% approval, and 67% DISapproval.

For someone who promised greatness, there seems to be a whole lotta of whining going on. “The president has cast himself in the starring role of the blameless victim — of a deadly pandemic, of a stalled economy, of deep-seated racial unrest, all of which happened to him rather than the country.”

Heather Cox Richardson reports other evidence that Trump is losing support - some GOP Senators are bailing out of the Jacksonville Republican convention.

It appears Trump’s position is weakening. This week, a number of Republican senators announced they were taking a pass on the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month, and this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that he, too, might skip it. Earlier this week, his spokesman had said that McConnell “has every intention” of attending the convention, but last week, a Republican source told Reuters that unless Trump’s performance improved by August, McConnell might have to advise Republican Senate candidates to keep their distance from Trump in order to try to hold on to the Republican majority in the Senate.

It seems that McConnell might be making that call earlier than expected.

Finally, Sarah Longwell reports on another group of voters and why they’re shifting away from Trump What Women Want: Here’s what women who voted for Trump in 2016 are saying about him now.

Cutting to it, here are her closing observations based on her focus groups.

One of the Trump voters who had decided to vote for Biden said, “The stakes are too high now. It’s a matter of life and death.”

That’s a pretty a good distillation of why Trump has been shedding support from women over the last few months. The multiple crises laid bare the fact that Donald Trump isn’t the savvy businessman these women voted for. Instead, they see him as a divisive president who’s in over his head.

And they see that his inability to successfully navigate this environment has real-world consequences for actual people.

Average voters weren’t moved by Trump’s obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation, or his quid-pro-quo with Ukraine, or his many personal scandals. But when people are unemployed, or dying, and the streets are on fire, they want a president who isn’t winging it.

They want someone who knows how the world works and can make the government perform the kind of functions that only it can do. Like managing a coordinated national response to a pandemic. Or using the bully pulpit to bring the nation together during a moment of crisis.

Donald Trump and his campaign think they can stop the bleeding with women by leaning into the culture wars and highlighting looters, rioters, and vandals pulling down statues. But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of these voters. They don’t see Trump as someone who can protect them from the chaos—they think he’s the source of it.

Which isn’t to say that the race couldn’t turn around for one reason or another. I suppose that crazier things have happened in American politics. (Though I can’t think of many off the top of my head.)

But the reality is that no modern president has done more to alienate female voters. His whole life Trump has treated women with disdain. And they are now poised to return the favor.

Sarah Longwell is publisher of The Bulwark.

Friday, July 10, 2020

A life-long Republican who voted for Trump will vote for Biden

David Gordon at Blog For Arizona suggests that you Check out the latest ads from the Biden Campaign, Lincoln Project, and Republican Voters Against Trump.

The fourth ad, which is actually a sample is many similar videos (please click here to access the Republican Voters Against Trump Video Library) is a Republican voter who will be voting for Biden, condemning “Evangelical Christian sellout to a false prophet….I believe that if Donald Trump is elected for four more years, that our country will go down the darkest path in its history.”

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Highest positivity rate in nation suggests that COVID-19 is overwhelming Arizona

Last night (July 8), Desperate measures in Arizona as COVID–19 overwhelms hospitals was the headline for one segment of The Rachel Maddow Show.

Dr. Theresa Cullen, public health director for Pima County, Arizona, talks with Rachel Maddow about the shocking rate of increase in new cases in her county and the mitigation measures being taken given limited options and scarce hospital bed space.

We learned that Arizona is now the highest of all states in the percentage of positive cases (“Positivity”) - a shocking 26.83%.

I’ve ben tracking positivity and testing statistics for Pima County since May. During the second week of June, the average positivity was 6.8%. That average jumped to 16.7% during the first week of July.

If the number of tests were the only factor determining the number of cases, the Pima rates should be constant. Over and above testing effects, I think, the 10-point difference is indicative of increasing spread of the disease.

Any way you cut it, these data are very bad news.

If Trump has his way with school openings no child will escape untouched

Remember Rick Wilson’s quote “Everything Trump Touches Dies”? Moms and pops better hunker down and guard their kids. Trump is turning the coronavirus loose on public education.

Trump doomed red state reopenings, now he plans to doom schools nationwide too writes Kerry Eleveld of the Daily Kos Staff. Here is part of it.

… But one thing we can trust for certain is that safety isn’t a key priority for anyone in Trump’s orbit. Trump is approaching his push to reopen schools exactly as he approached his push to reopen states. While demanding that governors and local officials reopen facilities, he hasn’t offered to lift so much as a finger to make those reopenings more safe.

For instance, how about putting billions toward deep cleaning the schools, helping them stock up on masks and other protective equipment, and opening on-site care centers with testing and contact tracing capability?

Nope. None of it. Not one damned thing. No funding, no resources, no useful guidance—nothing. Just the f*cking pressure campaign with a hope and a prayer for best results if we’re all lucky.

So just to be clear—it’s pretty safe to say that every working parent in America wants schools to reopen this fall. Safely. While most kids appear to weather the coronavirus quite well, they could easily carry the virus home and infect other members of the household, thereby hobbling the workforce and putting more lives at risk. Plus, some kids experience complications, and we still know little-to-nothing about the potential long-term effects of the disease.

Recent polling shows a majority of Americans are worried about exactly that—the safety of their families. Late last month, a combined 54% of Americans said they were either somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with reopening K–12 schools this fall, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll.

But since that poll, Trump’s beta launch for reopening the economy has gone completely off the rails, with more than 40 states nationwide reporting an increase in coronavirus cases as hospitalizations rise in at least 22 states and testing capacity tanks. In short, thanks to Trump’s handiwork, the global pandemic that America had months to prepare for is ripping through the nation unabated.

Early in the pandemic, Trump left states and governors to fend for themselves. Now he’s leaving families to do the exact same thing. His incompetence is an endless nightmare playing out in real time for the entire nation. First it doomed the old and vulnerable populations, then the economy. Next up: kids and their families. No one will escape untouched if he can help it.

The coming GOP wipeout - Trump's disastrous 3 months summed up with a 'poop emoji'

Charlie Sykes at TheBulwark asks Should the GOP Be Bracing For a Wipeout?

There have been a lot of overheated pre-mortems about the possibility of a Democratic landslide this fall, but this one by Henry Olsen in the WaPo, This year’s Senate races spell disaster for the Republican Party, is worth your time.

Olsen has been, shall we say, at least Trump-curious, so his latest analysis doesn’t reflect any sort of pro-resistance wishful thinking. Although I’ve disagreed with his willingness to rationalize Trumpism, there’s no question about his mastery of the data of polling.

So this is really something coming from Olsen:

Republicans are beginning to gird themselves for a landslide defeat for President Trump that drags the entire party down. It could be even worse than they think.

Elections in both the House and Senate are increasingly syncing with broader presidential races. In 2016, every Senate race was won by the same party that won that state in the presidential contest. In 2018, House races largely correlated with Trump’s approval rating, with even the most popular GOP incumbents unable to run more than a few points ahead of the president. Polls for Senate races this year show the same trend, with Republican incumbents’ totals closely matched with Trump’s.

This spells disaster for the party. Public polls show incumbent Senate Republicans trailing in five states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina. One recent poll from Georgia shows Sen. David Perdue leading his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, 45 percent to 42 percent, but that same poll also shows Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the state by two percentage points, 47 percent to 45 percent. The clear implication is that Georgia is also in play if Trump’s ratings stay down, which would spell disaster for Republicans since the second Senate seat in Georgia, held by appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is also on the November ballot. That’s seven GOP-held Senate seats at a high risk of switching parties, with only the Democratic-held seat in Alabama that is seen as a likely Republican pickup to offset those losses.

It could get even worse.

[Another must read is] Tim Miller’s piece in Rolling Stone about the mood/attitude among GOP campaign consultants and why they won’t distance themselves from Trump.What 9 GOP Campaign Consultants Really Think About Republicans’ Chances in November. The mood in MAGA-land: “Every shred of evidence points to a likely ass kicking”

It’s an excellent analysis of the mindset of the Republicanus Hackicus circa 2020.

What I found in their answers was one part Stockholm Syndrome, one part survival instinct. They all may not love the president, but most share his loathing for his enemies on the left, in the media, and the apostate Never Trump Republicans with a passion that engenders an alliance with the president, if not a kinship. And even among those who don’t share the tribalistic hatreds, they perceive a political reality driven by base voters and the president’s shitposting that simply does not allow for dissent.

As one put it: “There are two options, you can be on this hell ship or you can be in the water drowning.”

So I give you the view from the U.S.S Hellship, first the political state of play, and then the psychological.

The impact of Trump’s disastrous 3 months on down ballot candidates was best summed up in the first text message I got back.

“Could you use a poop emoji for my comments?”

Trump, SD Gov, and others exposed to coronavirus

In the morning email, Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) summarizes:

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said that Trump’s campaign rally there in late June “likely contributed” the recent dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the state. Observers are already worried about the Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally in August, which usually draws about a half a million people, and which, as of today, is still going forward.

Here’s the longer story from AP News: Health official: Trump rally ‘likely’ source of virus surge.

President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday.

Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday.

Although the health department’s policy is to not publicly identify individual settings where people may have contracted the virus, Dart said those large gatherings “more than likely” contributed to the spike.

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said.

Trump’s Tulsa rally, his first since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., attracted thousands of people from around the country. About 6,200 people gathered inside the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena — far fewer than was expected.

Dart had urged the campaign to consider pushing back the date of the rally, fearing a potential surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the campaign went to great lengths to ensure that those who attended the rally were protected.

And then …South Dakota governor, exposed to virus, joined Trump on jet.

Shortly after fireworks above Mount Rushmore disappeared into the night sky on Friday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem accompanied President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One despite having had close contact with Trump’s son’s girlfriend, who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Trump has been in a position all along to encounter a virus that spreads from people who don’t feel sick, such as Noem, who had interacted closely at a campaign fundraiser with Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who turned out to be infected. Noem didn’t wear a mask on the plane and chatted with the president as the flight returned to Washington, D.C., according to her spokesperson, Maggie Seidel.

Noem had tested negative for COVID–19 shortly before welcoming Trump to South Dakota on Friday, a day after she had interacted with Guilfoyle. One photo on social media showed Noem and Guilfoyle, who is also a Trump campaign staff member, hugging. The Trump campaign announced that Guilfoyle had tested positive on Friday.

Noem doesn’t plan anything similar or to get tested again for the virus, Seidel said. She cast Noem’s decision to fly on Air Force One as a demonstration of how to live with the virus. Seidel pointed to comments from the World Health Organization that the spread of the virus is “rare” from asymptomatic people. But that runs counter to guidance from public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that advises people to wear masks when interacting with people outside their household.

The CDC says that people with active infections can still test negative, especially if it is early in the infection. The agency recommends that even people who test negative take precautions like avoiding close contact and wearing a mask around others.

It’s just a matter of time.

Trump is not in denial, says Greg Sargent at WaPo. Worse, Trump is a 'deliberate and malevolent' actor.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) asks us to Stop saying Trump is ‘in denial.’ The truth is much worse.

If not denial then what? Here are some other possibilities (stages of grief).

Denial — “individuals … cling to a false, preferable reality.”

Anger — “Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?”

Bargaining — “negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle.” Let’s “reach across the aisle” to have background checks, mental health services.

Depression — “the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality” “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon, so what’s the point?”

Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.” “In this last stage, individuals embrace mortality or inevitable future.”

None of these are promising.

To paraphrase George Orwell, when it comes to President Trump’s bottomless malevolence and depravity, accurately describing what’s right in front of our noses is a constant struggle — and a perfect example of this is the ubiquitous claim that Trump is “in denial” about coronavirus.

With Trump now launching a campaign to get schools reopened, versions of this are everywhere. The new push shows Trump has “learned nothing” about the perils of reopening society too quickly, declares CNN’s main Twitter feed.

Trump is lost in “magical thinking,” proclaims one health expert. Trump is “basically in denial,” insists one Democratic governor. Trump is “incapable of grasping that people are dying,” frets one advocate for educators.

But is the problem really that Trump is incapable of learning, or that he’s deceiving himself, or that he’s closed his eyes to reality?

The preponderance of the evidence points to something far worse.

Trump has been widely and repeatedly informed by his own and other experts for many months that his failure to take coronavirus more seriously could have utterly catastrophic consequences, that it could result in widespread suffering and needless deaths.

It isn’t enough to point out that Trump repeatedly ignored that advice. What’s more important is that Trump has repeatedly seen the predicted consequences of those failures come to pass, and is seeing that right now.

Yet Trump still continues not just to downplay the severity of the virus’s continuing toll, but also to actively discourage current efforts to mitigate the spread — by failing to set an example through mask-wearing, for instance — and to urge the very sort of rapid reopening that has already contributed to catastrophic outcomes.

The carnage is mounting once again. Total cases just hit 3 million. They have risen in 37 states over the last two weeks — hitting single-day records in six — and the national rolling average of 50,000 new daily cases is far outpacing June’s.

There’s no doubt that the decision to reopen rapidly in many states — which Trump urged — has played some kind of important role in the current surges. As a former Baltimore health commissioner noted: “The key is we did not have to be here right now.”

Yet Trump has shown zero signs of even trying to grapple with the cause and effect behind these new circumstances. Instead, he continues to lie about them, falsely claiming we have the lowest mortality rate in the world, falsely claiming that “99 percent” of cases are “totally harmless,” and absurdly claiming the virus will “disappear.”

Can this really be described as being in denial?

Naw. Let’s try “acceptance.” That doesn’t work either. But is what Trump is doing just “embrace mortality or inevitable future?” I think not. What Trump is doing is way beyond “acceptance.” He is a purposeful actor on this stage, managing the present carnage and creating a horrific future.

The press critic Jay Rosen has repeatedly suggested that the effort to obscure Trump’s role in this ongoing fiasco is producing one of the biggest propaganda and disinformation campaigns in modern history. Central to getting this right is dispensing with the idea that Trump is a hapless, clueless actor rather than a deliberate and malevolent one.

Read more of Sargent’s analysis after the break.

Tucker Carlson calls Sen. Tammy Duckworth a 'coward'. See how she responds.

Reactionary Tucker Carlson and Draft Dodger Donald Trump try to Max Cleland Tammy Duckworth. David Gordon reports in the Blog for Arizona.

Most political historians and observers know who Max Cleland is.

A Vietnam War Veteran that lost both legs and an arm while serving, he won a seat to the United States Senate representing Georgia in 1996.

He lost his reelection in 2002 in part because his opponent, Saxby Chambliss, ran a negative ad that many believed, including Chuck Hagel and John McCain, shamefully questioned Cleland’s patriotism.

Fast forward 18 years later and another Senator and war veteran who has lost both legs [fighting in Iraq] is being falsely accused of not loving her country.

Tucker Carlson, the Fox Island Commentator who has not served one day in the military, had the nerve to question Senator Tammy Duckworth’s love for the United States, calling her a “moron,” “vandal,” and “coward” because she said in an interview with CNN that there should be a “national dialogue” on the removal of statues of the founding fathers.

Carlson’s comments were shared on Twitter by Mr. “Bone Spurs-Draft Dodger” Donald Trump.

Duckworth, displaying superior intelligence to both “men,” tweeted back at Carlson

Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?

2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, whose team is vetting Senator Duckworth for the Vice Presidental Nomination, defended her, stating:

“I can’t tell you how I felt today when I heard the president of the United States, Donald Trump, questioning your patriotism. I found it virtually disgusting, sickening. It’s a reflection of the depravity of what’s going on in the White House right now.”

Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump are despicable little microbes.

They should not be allowed to Max Cleland another brave war hero like Senator Tammy Duckworth.

Boycott Tucker Carlson’s show like the advertisers are.

Vote Donald Trump out in November.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Great story - Rabbi says Joe Biden is a mensch.

This came to me in an email. Rabbi Michael Beals recalls Biden’s appearance at a Jewish worship service (a “shiva”). Following is the Rabbi’s recollection.

-=-=-=-=- Text of email message follows (with block quotes suppressed).

The story I’m about to share with you about Joe Biden is special – in fact, I’m fairly certain I’m the only living person left who actually witnessed it firsthand.

It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan – a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didn’t know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

A quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together – a minyan – to say the Mourners’ Kaddish. It usually happens in a person’s home – somewhere intimate.

In this case, the deceased individual – her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory – had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment had been too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the building’s communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.

We assembled the ten elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead the kaddish. Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened, and who walks in but Senator Joe Biden, his head lowered, all by himself.

I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.

Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.

At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Senator Biden – what are you doing here?”

And he said to me: “Listen, back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”

Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith – its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.

There were no news outlets at our service that day – no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.

Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because he’s a mensch.

And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country – we need a mensch.

I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.

Because I think that, in their heart of hearts, when people are trying to think about the decision they’ll make this year – this is the kind of story that matters.

Joe Biden is a mensch. We need a mensch.

Thanks for reading.

– Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware.

Paul Krugman - Trump trading deaths for political gain

Paul Krugman explains How America Lost the War on Covid–19. He says It wasn’t because of our culture, it was because of our leadership. Here are excerpts.

Over the past three weeks things have quickly gotten very grim. Hospitals in Arizona and Texas are in crisis. And, yes, it was premature reopening that did it, both directly and by sending a signal to individuals that the risk was past.

But why did America bungle Covid–19 so badly?

There has been a fair bit of commentary to the effect that our failed pandemic response was deeply rooted in American culture. We are, the argument goes, too libertarian, too distrustful of government, too unwilling to accept even slight inconveniences to protect others.

And there’s surely something to this. I don’t think any other advanced country (but are we still an advanced country?) has a comparable number of people who respond with rage when asked to wear a mask in a supermarket. There definitely isn’t any other advanced country where demonstrators against public health measures would wave guns around and invade state capitols. And the Republican Party is more or less unique among major Western political parties in its hostility to science in general.

But what strikes me, when looking at America’s extraordinary pandemic failure, is how top-down it all was.

The main driving force behind reopening, as far as I can tell, was the administration’s desire to have big job gains leading into November, so that it could do what it knew how to do — boast about economic success. Actually dealing with the pandemic just wasn’t Trump’s kind of thing.

In that case, however, why has Trump refused to wear a face mask or encourage others to do so? After all, wider use of masks would be one way to limit infections without shutting down the economy.

Well, Trump’s vanity — his belief that wearing a mask would make him look silly, or mess up his makeup, or something — has surely played a role. But it’s also true that masks remind people that we haven’t controlled the coronavirus — and Trump wants people to forget that awkward fact.

The irony is that Trump’s willingness to trade deaths for jobs and political gain has backfired.

Reopening did lead to large job increases in May and June, as around a third of the workers laid off as a result of the pandemic were rehired. But Trump’s job approval and electoral prospects just kept sliding.

And even in purely economic terms the rush to reopen is probably failing. The last official employment number was a snapshot from the second week of June; a variety of short-term indicators suggest that growth slowed or even went into reverse soon afterward, especially in states where Covid–19 cases are spiking.

In any case, the point is that America’s defeat at the hands of the coronavirus didn’t happen because victory was impossible. Nor was it because we as a nation were incapable of responding. No, we lost because Trump and those around him decided that it was in their political interests to let the virus run wild.

Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for the tip.

Manifest Destiny - a new cornerstone of Trump's campaign. Take that all you people of color!

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) reports on some Trumpian doo-doo.

The administration continues to court its base with a racist vision of the country. Yesterday, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Liz Harrington criticized presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of advancing “radical left socialism” for saying that “Independence Day is a celebration of our persistent march toward greater justice — the natural expansion of our founding notion from ‘all men are created equal’ to ‘all people are created equal and should be treated equally throughout their lives.’”

On the same day, Trump tweeted an attack on Black racecar driver Bubba Wallace, accusing him of advancing a “HOAX” because someone (not Wallace) had found and reported a noose hanging in his garage. In the same tweet, Trump expressed outrage that NASCAR has banned the use of the Confederate flag at its events. (Republican strategist Karl Rove told the Fox News Channel the president’s defense of the Confederate flag did not help his campaign.)

Then, out of the blue, the official White House Twitter account published a photo of Trump and Pence apparently gazing in to the sky, alongside a quotation that said: “Americans are the people who pursued our Manifest Destiny across the ocean, into the uncharted wilderness, over the tallest mountains, and then into the skies and even into the stars.” Manifest Destiny was a term coined in the 1840s by the editor of the Democratic Review magazine to explain why it was the divinely ordained duty of Americans to push west and take over the lands of indigenous peoples and Mexicans, spreading slavery into new lands. The term is widely associated with white supremacy and deadly dominance over people of color.

And, …

As of today [July 7], the United States has had more than 3 million cases of Covid–19.

Which led to …

… the European Union has reopened its borders to travelers from a list of countries where the coronavirus is now under control. The United States is not on the list, meaning Americans cannot travel to the EU, but China, which has brought the coronavirus into control, is.

Signs of the new normal - virus and violence

The Virus: “the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day” - official familiar with Trump campaign.

The Violence: "It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.” - writing in the Daily Star, a gun owner having a second thought about defending school shootings.

A bleak new normal is the latest email update from the Washington Post’s Coronavirus Updates. Avi Selk reports (with emphases and links in the original).

After 28 straight days of rising infection averages, with no solution in sight, President Trump’s political strategists are betting that Americans will simply get used to an uncontrolled pandemic before he stands for reelection in November, our politics desk reported Monday.

“They’re of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day,” said a former administration official in touch with the campaign. The rolling average for daily new cases in the United States has already climbed past 49,000, driven by surges in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, most of which have also reported record numbers of covid–19 hospitalizations in recent days.

Trump himself claimed over the weekend that 99 percent of covid–19 cases are “harmless” and a vaccine will be available this year. In reality, even people with no apparent symptoms can spread the disease to others or fall suddenly ill. And the leading effort to develop a vaccine in the U.S. relies on an elegant but unproven new genetic technology.

So basically the Trumpies are advocating the ultimate stage of grief - acceptance - as a campaign ploy and national policy. There is a precedent, a parallel in a different context - mass shooting of school children.

Back on October 3rd, 2017, I penned this opinion piece: J’accuse: Our national failure and disgrace. Here is some of it.

J’accuse

In 1898 the French writer Emile Zola published an open letter critical of the French government titled “J’accuse” - I accuse. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But first …

J’avoue

I confess.

Viewing the TV news last evening I discovered something ugly about myself. That thing I discovered is that I no longer had a visceral, emotional reaction to the news of the latest mass shooting. The numbers, 59 killed and 527 injured, are mere statistics. The videos of people getting shot and running for their lives are visual props for the nightly news.

I don’t think it’s just me. I think it is a cultural malady afflicting Americans. We have seen this cycle so often that our innate reactions, our primordial reflexes, have now been inhibited by repeated mass shootings with no consequences. David Fitzsimmons in this morning’s Daily Star perfectly captures this cycle of insanity.

We psychologists know about latent inhibition in which “a familiar stimulus takes longer to acquire meaning (as a signal or conditioned stimulus) than a new stimulus.” That is, in the present context, repeated exposure to mass shootings via the broadcast news renders us less capable of feeling revulsion that such events should cause.

You think I’m over-reacting? Consider this op-ed in this morning’s Daily Star, [As a longtime gun owner, I wonder what to say.][gun] The author, Stu Bykofsky, says “As a lawful gun owner, as a defender of the Bill of Rights — all of them — I say you can’t saddle the 99.9 percent of gun owners who have done nothing wrong with the sins of the 0.1 percent who have criminal intent. But it gets harder for me to say that, to believe that, each time something like this happens. It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.”

So we are to believe, on this twisted logic, that those 59 people voluntarily gave up their lives to insure some one’s freedom to own assault weapons? I guess I have not been rendered totally insensate. This guy pisses me off. And so does the inability of the most powerful nation on earth to protect those 59 people.

And circling back to the coronavirus, how have we, as a one-time great nation, come “to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day”? That too pisses me off.

Whoever believes that has a hole in their soul - a psychological disorder - a twisted morality more like Joseph Stalin than Abraham Lincoln. That’s right. I am charging Donald Trump and his GOP lackeys with the moral equivalent of mass murder. Using their own words, prove me wrong.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Evangelical support for Trump is slipping

Writing an opinion piece for The Hill, Juan Williams shows how Trump’s base begins to crack. (Thanks to our Roving Reporter Sherry for the tip.) Following is the full post with block quotes suppressed.

Here is a checklist for fans of the “greatest of all presidents.”

Where’s the wall — and is Mexico paying for it?

Where’s the fabulous plan to replace ObamaCare?

Where’s the deal with North Korea to end their nuclear threat?

Where’s the racial healing in retweeting a supporter shouting “white power”?

Oh, didn’t he tell you in February the virus was going to magically disappear and then repeat it to you last week after more than 125,000 Americans died from it?

Now that’s a record of failure.

And here is one more question on empty promises for Trump’s biggest fans, white evangelicals:

Has Trump delivered for you after the Supreme Court’s recent rulings in support of gay rights and abortion rights?

Trump’s standing with evangelicals started fraying before the court’s decisions.

First, the failure to protect the country from the virus hurt him, especially with seniors.

Then evangelicals of all ages saw a lack of Christian empathy in his attacks on people standing together, across racial lines, to protest police brutality. “We’re one race and we need to love each other,” said Pat Robertson, a major evangelical leader.

To shore up his base, Trump is now resorting to open appeals to white racial grievance.

He has retweeted videos of black and white people fighting. Last week, he retweeted a video of a white St. Louis couple holding guns to threaten people marching for racial justice.

Putting fear into his white base — to get them back in line — can be seen in his damning comments on protestors. They are all “thugs,” and “hoodlums,” even as the instances of rioting are few amid overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations.

Similarly, Trump’s strategy includes demonizing people pulling down statues of Confederate generals. He says they are “terrorists.” He refuses to admit the damage done by ever-present symbols of white supremacy, including the Confederate flag.

So, exactly which white people are the audience for Trump’s acid politics?

Trump won 57 percent of the white vote in 2016. One-third of that support came from white evangelicals. Another 20 percent of Trump’s 2016 base of support came from white Catholics, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

That means white evangelicals and white Catholics made up half of the people who voted for Trump in 2016.

But now several polls showing Trump losing to Democrat Joe Biden by a substantial margin. The decline is due to sliding support from white evangelicals and white Catholics.

“In March, nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals said they approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing, [according to polling by PRRI],” the New York Times reported in early June.

“But by the end of May, with the country convulsed by racial discord, Mr. Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals had fallen 15 percentage points to 62 percent, according to a PRRI poll,” according to the Times story, by Jeremy W. Peters. The article noted that Trump’s white Catholic support is down 27 points since March.

David Brody, the chief political analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network, recently told Politico that “any slippage” of Trump’s support among evangelical voters would doom him to defeat in November.

Trump is potentially losing those few percentage points of evangelical support in a nation showing increasing support for the Black Lives Matter movement but also dealing, as Brody put it, with “everything from the coronavirus to George Floyd and Trump calling himself the ‘law and order president.’"

If evangelicals are the target of Trump’s racial grievance strategy, the bull’s-eye on that target are white people without a college degree.

Since the end of May, Trump has lost 15 percentage points of support among whites without a college degree, according to an average of polls by The Washington Post.

He had a 37-percentage point lead among those voters over Hillary Clinton in 2016. It is now down to a 22-point lead over Biden.

There is deadly political consequence for Trump’s reelection bid in those numbers.

The loss of those voters is a big reason behind a June New York Times poll showing Trump and Biden basically tied among white voters.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Biden currently leading Trump in six states Trump won in 2016: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.

With four months to go before Election Day, all Trump can do now is ask his evangelical supporters to overlook his failures in exchange for more promises, especially continuing to pack the federal courts with conservative judges who are hostile to abortion rights and gay rights.

He thinks that promise will be enough to motivate evangelicals and Catholics to turn out for him.

“You won’t have religious liberty — you won’t have anything,” if Biden wins in November, Trump predicted in a recent interview with his former press secretary Sean Spicer, after highlighting his appointment of “two Supreme Court justices.”

If a few evangelicals decide a few more judges aren’t worth sacrificing their most cherished principles of Christian love and morality, they may end up voting for a white Catholic.

His name is Joe Biden.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Trump's bible stunt is not the bottom. He aspires to become a worse version of himself

Or so it seems.

Trump Is Only Going to Become a Worse Version of Himself Before Election Day writes Daily Beast Special Correspondent Michael Tomasky. Trump won’t do anything to reverse his downward slide. He’s incapable of change—but he has no desire to change either.

That Mt. Rushmore speech will go down as one of the sickest, most debased moments in the history of the presidency. First of all, it was officially not a campaign speech, but a presidential speech, meaning that we the taxpayers paid for it. More importantly Donald Trump was delivering this address not as a political candidate but as the servant of the whole people, those who voted for him and those who did not. And what he gave us was a Goebbels-esque piece of propaganda quite literally intended to foment as much division and hatred as possible.

If you think this distinction between campaign speaking and official speaking is quaint or trite or unimportant, you are wrong. You are overly cynical. Politicians actually do make such distinctions. Especially presidents—of both parties.

Out of curiosity, I went back and looked at Ronald Reagan’s 1984 Independence Day address—from the year in which he, like Trump now, was seeking re-election. I do not like Reagan. Never did, never will. But compared to Trump, he was a moral giant. His speech did not touch on the dark aspects of our history that we are finally, belatedly confronting in earnest today. Republicans have a very hard time admitting imperfection in our union, not least Republicans who made a point of giving a major campaign address—about states’ rights, no less—in a town in Mississippi where three civil rights workers had been viciously murdered 16 years before, as Reagan did in 1980.

Still, Reagan’s speech that July 4 of 1984 was completely presidential. This part even brought a little tear to the corner of my eye: “And in a courthouse somewhere, some of the newest Americans, the most recent immigrants to our country, will take the oath of citizenship. Maybe today, someone will put his hand on the shoulder of one of those new citizens and say, ‘Welcome,’ and not just as a courtesy, but to say welcome to a great land, a place of unlimited possibilities. Welcome to the American family.”

Can you imagine this president talking like that? I suppose it’s possible that he has—that some desperate aide talked him into attending a citizenship ceremony somewhere along the line. But we know that he doesn’t think this way. He thinks about hatred and race and how he can crush people.

As he’s been slipping in the polls these last few weeks, we’ve heard some commentators and a number of “concerned” or “disappointed” Republicans say that Trump needs to right the ship, to reach out to swing voters and suburban women, to salvage Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and stop with the endless splenetic rage. These people are either soulless robots or proud liars, or they hold PhDs in Wishful Thinking from Susan Collins University.

Most politicians, of course, would do just that. But Trump won’t change. He can’t. That is, he couldn’t even if he wanted to, because emotional 5-year-olds, like real 5-year-olds, are incapable of such self-reflection. But he doesn’t even want to. He loves himself (even though deep down he also hates himself, which is the source of the psychodrama we’ve all been Hoovered into for four years), and he loves things just the way they are. He thinks he’s doing great.

We have to be clear about all this, incredible as it may seem. He thinks he was the best president ever before the virus hit. Not since Reagan or since Roosevelt or even since Lincoln. Ever. He thinks the virus was a Chinese/Democrat plot to weaken him. He thinks he’s handled the pandemic exceptionally well. He thinks we’re past the worst of it. He thinks we’ll all be fine if we just quit being such desiccated little buttercups and get back to normal, as if the virus will observe us going to the movies and attending sporting events and give up, cry uncle, admit defeat against an indomitable, mask-mocking people.

He thinks he is loved. And of course, tragically, he is, by millions of people. He is hated by millions more, many more than love him, but he can’t remotely begin to fathom this or, God forbid, try to figure out why, because to him the problem is not him, but them.

So if you think all that, why would you change? Nothing needs changing. Indeed, you double down, you intensify, you just do more more more, because you were the best president ever and the people love you and the virus, which you handled as beautifully as that Ukraine phone call, isn’t your fault and everybody knows it.

And that is all he is going to do between now and Election Day, become a more intense version of Trump. I’m out of the election prediction business since 2016, so I’m not going to predict an outcome. But I will say this: He’s not going to do anything to change his current downward trajectory. Oh, and that’s another thing he thinks. He thinks the polls are fake news. They’re campaign manager Brad Parscale’s fault, like the lame crowd in Tulsa. So he doesn’t need to change a thing. He’s going to get worse and worse such that by Election Day, that June 1 Bible stunt will rank as maybe the fourth or fifth most offensive thing he’s done, at best.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden. I don’t know what they’re putting in that guy’s coffee, but once again, he sent out a magnificent little video address on Independence Day, which you really should watch. Our founding principles and ideals, he said, have “gnawed at our conscience and pulled us toward justice. American history is no fairy tale. It’s been a constant push and pull between two parts of our character—the idea that all men and women are created equal, and the racism that has torn us apart. We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed a full share of the American dream… This Independence Day, let’s not just celebrate the words, let’s celebrate that promise and commit to work, the work we must do to fulfill that promise.”

The other day, Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin made the contrast quite clear.

… Biden offers a vision of a country that stands “ready to lead again, not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

You can have that guy or the raving, paranoid one peddling hate and dystopia. The choice is not even close.

The bankrupt president - how Trump's presidency might end

Trump’s Presidency Is About to Enter Chapter 11. As the walls close in on him, what will Trump do? Nicholas Grossman, a political science professor at the University of Illinois writing in thebulwark.com, proposes some answers. Following are excerpts.

First, he could just cheat.

… Trump’s problem is that … electoral shenanigans only pay off at the margins. Maybe they can swing a closely-divided state, but they can’t overcome the kind of 5- and 7-point deficits Trump is seeing in most battleground state polls.

Which means he’d need to do something next-level, like changing vote totals, suspending the election, or refusing to leave after a certified loss. And those would be extremely difficult.

Large-scale vote tampering would take a massive operation  and be difficult to hide. Changing Election Day requires an act of Congress. Refusing to leave after a loss would require support from the military and the Secret Service.

[Scriber:] Might we pause here and contemplate “support from the military.” Not a lot, actually. See this story about generals speaking out,

Trump could certainly contest a close election. Definitely if it’s within recount range. And if Trump’s leading on Election Night, but mail-in ballots give Biden the victory a week later, Trump could cry fraud, launch lawsuits, tell his supporters that it’s not over, and fight it out all the way to the Supreme Court. (Neil Gorsuch being the deciding vote against Trump would be the greatest irony of them all.)

But contesting an unambiguous loss takes on a lot of additional risk — to himself and his family, let alone the country — for a relatively low chance of success. The man who went to the White House bunker in response to Black Lives Matter protests probably doesn’t have the stomach for the public reaction if he loses and tries to stay.

Especially when there’s another option.

He could just bail.

Donald Trump talks about #winning so much that people often forget that one of the defining aspects of his life have been his bankruptcies.

Going bankrupt taught Trump a very important lesson: If you fail, make sure other people pay the price.

Trump’s companies have declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times, and he sometimes managed to make money for himself even as the business went broke. With his Atlantic City casinos, Trump had the company pay him millions in salary and bonuses before filing for Chapter 11, stiffing contractors and creditors, and leaving his partners holding the bag. Stock and bond holders lost over $1.5 billion. And, using now-illegal accounting tricks, Trump even managed to get hundreds of millions in tax write-offs for himself.

Well, Trump’s presidency is going bankrupt. Which means that he will put himself first and get out with as much as he can, screwing over whoever he has to on the way out the door. In this scenario, after losing the election Trump would focus more on issuing pardons and setting up new business ventures than trying to remain in power.

Pardons! Maybe Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort, all confessed or convicted lawbreakers. Maybe Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who allegedly misused government resources, bypassed Congressional regulations to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, and then got the inspector general investigating it fired. Maybe Jared and Ivanka, Don Jr., and — sure why not — Eric. The pardon power is basically unlimited.

Except for this: can a president pardon himself? Lawyers are on various sides of that question, and it hasn’t been tested. Maybe we’ll find out.

Or maybe Trump will resign in January so Pence can pardon him.

… there’s also the possibility Trump thinks his presidency is ending and is running his old bankruptcy play, projecting confidence while anticipating a loss — a loss that he won’t let land on him.

The flawed thinking behind TRump's flawed speech

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) knocks Trump’s ‘Toe-tally-terry-tism’ speech.

Perhaps President Trump’s remarks at Mount Rushmore on Friday will become known as the super-spreader speech, where a few thousand people, nearly all unmasked, sat next to each other (on chairs actually tied together, which prevented social distancing) in rapt attention and thereby duplicated the monstrously dangerous stunt Trump recently pulled in Tulsa. Maybe it will be vaguely remembered as the worst Independence Day speech in American history. I’m betting it will be known as the “toe-tally-terry-tism” speech …

It was not simply his slurred speech (Trump also mangled the pronunciation of Ulysses Grant, as if he had never seen in print the first name of the Union general who clobbered the Confederate generals Trump still tries to venerate) that conveyed the impression there is something just not right with the 45th president. It was not merely Trump’s sweaty, oddly colored pallor; his squinting to read the teleprompter; or the uneven pacing of his reading, which at times threatened (promised?) to grind to a halt. No, it was the darkly aggressive and fascistic substance of his speech: positing that his enemies want to destroy America and eradicate its history.

[…]

Now, if you were looking for normalcy, sanity, actual patriotism and something uplifting, you could have read former vice president Joe Biden’s July 4 op-ed. His vision of America is one of ever-expanding freedom:

Our democracy rose up from the ground when we ended slavery and ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. It rose higher when women fought for suffrage — and won. It was fortified when a lawyer named Thurgood Marshall persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down “separate but equal” and blaze a trail for opportunity in Brown v. Board of Education. And when our nation opened its eyes to the viciousness of Bull Connor and the righteousness of the Freedom Riders — and responded with outrage, and a new Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act — we built it stronger still.

… Biden offers a vision of a country that stands “ready to lead again, not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

You can have that guy or the raving, paranoid one peddling hate and dystopia. The choice is not even close.

Max Boot (Washington Post) provides additional reasons for that choice because Trump is running an openly racist campaign, one that is

… at odds with public opinion that has shifted against Confederate monuments and in favor of Black Lives Matter. So he prefers to pretend that he is battling against the unreasonable demands of “cancel culture” — and his supporters pretend to believe him. But everyone knows that what he is really defending is not “our freedom” or “our history,” as he said on Friday, but, rather, “white power” — the words uttered by a Trump supporter in a video that the president himself posted on Twitter and later deleted but did not disavow.

Arizona - a state now in play

Nathaniel Rakich at 538.com explains How Arizona Became A Swing State.

For years, Arizona was to Democrats what Lucy’s football was to Charlie Brown. Despite candidates from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton investing in the state, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried it since Bill Clinton in 1996. In fact, no Democrat won a statewide election in Arizona on any level after 2008 until 2018, despite numerous close calls.

But Arizona is changing.

In the 2008 and 2012 presidential races, the state was 16 points and 13 points more Republican-leaning than the country as a whole, respectively.1 But in 2016, President Trump won Arizona by only 4 points, making the state just 6 points more Republican-leaning than the nation.2 And in 2018, four Democratic candidates broke through and won statewide, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Now, in 2020, Joe Biden looks like he has a chance to actually win Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. As of June 29, Biden led Trump by 4.7 points in our Arizona polling average. And it looks like Democrats could flip another Senate seat here too, as Democrat Mark Kelly leads Republican Sen. Martha McSally by double digits in numerous polls.

Much of that is because of an extremely pro-Democratic national environment; according to our polling averages, Arizona is still a bit more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole (4.6 points more Republican-leaning, to be precise). But if the final election results were to exactly match our current polling averages, it would still represent the third consecutive presidential election where Arizona has moved left.

So what’s driving this shift?

Part of it is the same reason people have been predicting a blue Arizona for years: Latino voters. Along with the state’s small Black and Native American populations, Latinos constitute the Democratic base in Arizona. In 2016, a precinct-level regression analysis estimated that Clinton won more than 80 percent of the Latino vote in Arizona. And according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, the share of eligible Latinos who voted also increased from 37 percent in 2012 to 42 percent in 2016.

And Arizona’s Latino population is swelling. The state has gone from 25 percent to 31 percent Latino since 2000. That said, the white population share in Arizona is still much higher (currently 55 percent). And many of Arizona’s Latinos are ineligible to vote: Among U.S. citizens who are 18 and older, white people are 65 percent of the population and Hispanic or Latino people only 23 percent. Worst of all for Democrats, low turnout rates mean Latinos constitute an even smaller share of the actual electorate: According to the CAP analysis, 2016 voters in Arizona were 73 percent white and only 17 percent Latino.

So this trend alone doesn’t explain Arizona’s sudden competitiveness, even though the Latino share of the electorate is slowly but surely increasing (it rose by 2 points from 2012 to 2016). The bigger factor at play is one that is not unique to Arizona, either: The movement of suburban voters from Republicans to Democrats since the 2016 election.

Politically, culturally and economically, Arizona is dominated by Maricopa County, which covers Phoenix and its sprawling metropolitan area. In the last several elections, Maricopa has consistently accounted for about 60 percent of the votes cast in Arizona, which means that the candidate who wins Maricopa usually wins Arizona.

And for years, it was a Republican. Unlike in many states, the most Democratic parts of Arizona actually lay outside its biggest metropolis: Apache County (which includes much of the Navajo Nation and is 75 percent Native American), Coconino County (home of Flagstaff), Pima County (home of Tucson) and Santa Cruz County (a poor, rural county that is 83 percent Latino). As a result, Democrats consistently did better in the rest of Arizona than they did in Maricopa — where most of the votes were.

Until 2016.

Clinton lost Maricopa County by just 3 points (48 percent to 45 percent), a drastic improvement from the last four Democratic presidential candidates. And, notably, she became the first Democratic presidential candidate since at least 1960 to do better in Maricopa than she did in the rest of the state (where she lost by 5 points). Sinema made even more inroads in 2018: She won Maricopa County 51 percent to 47 percent while losing the rest of the state 49 percent to 48 percent. In other words, Maricopa County was the reason Arizona voted Democratic in 2018.

Because of its size, Maricopa is home to all sorts of areas, from heavily Latino and Black South Phoenix to historically Mormon Mesa to the college town of Tempe to retirement communities like Sun City. But the county’s transformation has been led by upper-class suburban enclaves like Ahwatukee, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. According to data from Daily Kos Elections, the state legislative districts where Clinton improved on Obama’s performance the most also tended to be highly college-educated and have high median incomes.

Basically, Arizona’s urban vs. rural divide is deepening, just like the rest of the nation’s. But because Arizona is one of the most urbanized states in the country, that’s a good trade for Democrats. In fact, according to an analysis based on FiveThirtyEight’s urbanization index, if Arizona’s density had been the only factor in how it voted, it would have voted for Clinton by 6 points.

And that may happen for Biden this year. Since March, Biden has held a small but consistent lead over Trump in polls there. Most recently, a poll by Siena College/The New York Times Upshot — one of the best pollsters in the business — gave him a 7-point lead among registered voters (although this will probably shrink among likely voters). But for now, it looks like the Democratic Party’s newfound suburban strength, combined with the gradual growth of Arizona’s Latino population, is finally putting the Grand Canyon State in play.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Trump's biggest con - A coup d'etat as a path to preserving power

I’m going to start with an assumption, namely that Trump wants to hold onto power. Now he may not want to continue on with the election given that all the signs and polls are against him. But if he does, there are two ways for him to do so. #1: He can revamp his campaign and make drastic changes to his own behaviors thus winning the election fair and square. Not likely, given his speech last night (July 3rd), but let’s leave it on the table for now. #2: Trump uses presidential emergency powers to take over America, a horrifyingly plausible possibility.

Let’s look at each of these routes to continuance of Trumpian power.

First, Paul Waldman, Columnist for the Washington Post, describes How Trump can win reelection.

… the New York Times describes “frenetic, and often fruitless, attempts by top Republicans to soothe the president and steer him away from self-sabotage, while also manipulating him to serve their own purposes.” It’s so bad that aides are afraid to tell Trump the truth about how poorly he’s doing.

But here is another way that Trump could win “reelection.”

Fortunately, I have the answer they’re looking for. There is something the president can do to turn things around in the four months he has left before the election.

It’s not a staff shakeup, or a newly honed message, or a wittier nickname for Biden. All he has to do is change absolutely everything about how he confronts the two great crises facing the country. In other words, if he wants to get reelected, he needs to do his job.

Waldman then describes the various actions Trump could take to get us public safety by responding sensibly to the coronavirus and economic security by putting money into the economy.

If the president made this turn tomorrow, the pandemic and the economic crisis wouldn’t be behind us by Nov. 3. But at least we’d be headed in the right direction, and it would be possible that voters would decide that he’s doing a good job and he deserves to stay in office.

But of course, he won’t do any of that. The relatively simple things I’ve laid out here read like an absurd fantasy. Doing the job of president at the moment when America needs him the most runs against everything Donald Trump is.

Second, bmaz, a contributor to emptywheel.com, raises a chilling specter, MAYBE TRUMP REALLY IS NEVER GOING TO LEAVE.

… I am gonna leave you with one more little nugget of joy. Trump really is planning on not leaving even if he loses badly to Biden. I have kind of poo poohed this kind of talk, but this morning on Morning Joe, there was a discussion with former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth and Tom Rogers, a journalist and original founder of both CNBC and MSNBC. These are two very smart and credible people, and they are pretty convincing. If you can find a video clip of their appearance, post the link and I’ll add it in to the post, it is harrowing.

[Scriber]: Here is the video clip. It is worth watching as Wirth runs down possible remedies.

But they have an article out together now in Newsweek entitled “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President”. Also harrowing, and they are convinced that this is really Trump’s plan.

Wirth and Rogers lay out two paths they expect Trump to take. The first is the obvious one pretty much everybody is aware of, severe voter suppression and goon poll watchers challenging voters pretty much anywhere and everywhere, along with claiming fraud as to the vote by mail. But it is the second path that is truly frightening.

This spring, HBO aired The Plot Against America, based on the Philip Roth novel of how an authoritarian president could grab control of the United States government using emergency powers that no one could foresee. Recent press reports have revealed the compilation by the Brennan Center at New York University of an extensive list of presidential emergency powers that might be inappropriately invoked in a national security crisis. Attorney General William Barr, known for his extremist view of the expanse of presidential power, is widely believed to be developing a Justice Department opinion arguing that the president can exercise emergency powers in certain national security situations, while stating that the courts, being extremely reluctant to intervene in the sphere of a national security emergency, would allow the president to proceed unchecked.

With this, Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for the step-by-step process by which he holds on to the presidency after he has clearly lost the election:

  1. Biden wins the popular vote, and carries the key swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by decent but not overwhelming margins.

  2. Trump immediately declares that the voting was rigged, that there was mail-in ballot fraud and that the Chinese were behind a plan to provide fraudulent mail-in ballots and other “election hacking” throughout the four key swing states that gave Biden his victory.

  3. Having railed against the Chinese throughout the campaign, calling Biden “soft on China,” Trump delivers his narrative claiming the Chinese have interfered in the U.S. election.

  4. Trump indicates this is a major national security issue, and he invokes emergency powers, directing the Justice Department to investigate the alleged activity in the swing states. The legal justification for the presidential powers he invokes has already been developed and issued by Barr.

  5. The investigation is intended to tick down the clock toward December 14, the deadline when each state’s Electoral College electors must be appointed. This is the very issue that the Supreme Court harped on in Bush v. Gore in ruling that the election process had to be brought to a close, thus forbidding the further counting of Florida ballots.

  6. All four swing states have Republican control of both their upper and lower houses of their state legislatures. Those state legislatures refuse to allow any Electoral College slate to be certified until the “national security” investigation is complete.

  7. The Democrats will have begun a legal action to certify the results in those four states, and the appointment of the Biden slate of electors, arguing that Trump has manufactured a national security emergency in order to create the ensuing chaos.

  8. The issue goes up to the Supreme Court, which unlike the 2000 election does not decide the election in favor of the Republicans. However, it indicates again that the December 14 Electoral College deadline must be met; that the president’s national security powers legally authorize him to investigate potential foreign country intrusion into the national election; and if no Electoral College slate can be certified by any state by December 14, the Electoral College must meet anyway and cast its votes.

  9. The Electoral College meets, and without the electors from those four states being represented, neither Biden nor Trump has sufficient votes to get an Electoral College majority.

  10. The election is thrown into the House of Representatives, pursuant to the Constitution. Under the relevant constitutional process, the vote in the House is by state delegation, where each delegation casts one vote, which is determined by the majority of the representatives in that state.

  11. Currently, there are 26 states that have a majority Republican House delegation. 23 states have a majority Democratic delegation. There is one state, Pennsylvania, that has an evenly split delegation. Even if the Democrats were to pick up seats in Pennsylvania and hold all their 2018 House gains, the Republicans would have a 26 to 24 delegation majority.

  12. This vote would enable Trump to retain the presidency.

Is this nuts? Sure. Is it possible? Yes, given who and what Trump and Barr are, it may well be.

Susan Rice - Trump is 'utterly derelict in his duties'

Why Does Trump Put Russia First? asks former national security adviser Susan E. Rice. It’s exceedingly difficult to believe that no one told the president about the intelligence on Russian efforts to harm Americans in Afghanistan.

Since at least February, and possibly as early as March 2019, the United States has had compelling intelligence that a committed adversary, Russia, paid bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan. American service members were reportedly killed as a result.

To this day, the president of the United States has done nothing about it.

Americans have a right to know the answer.

… If Mr. Trump was told about Russian actions, why did he not respond? If he was not told, why not? Are his top advisers utterly incompetent? Are they too scared to deliver bad news to Mr. Trump, particularly about Russia? Is Mr. Trump running a rogue foreign policy utterly divorced from U.S. national interests? If so, why?

A perilous pattern persists that underscores Mr. Trump’s strange propensity to serve Russian interests above America’s. Recall that, during his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump publicly urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and praised WikiLeaks for publishing stolen documents.

He denied and dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 election, then took Mr. Putin at his word at a Helsinki meeting while undercutting the U.S. intelligence community, and obstructed the Mueller investigation and distorted its findings. Mr. Trump recklessly removed U.S. troops from northern Syria and allowed Russian forces to take over American bases.

Next, Mr. Trump unilaterally invited Mr. Putin to attend the Group of 7 meeting, a move that apparently upended the organization’s annual summit. Subsequently, without any consultation, Mr. Trump announced his decision to remove nearly a third of U.S. troops from Germany — a sudden and inexplicable withdrawal that weakens the U.S.-German relationship and harms NATO, while benefiting Russia.

Most recently, we have learned that even Russian efforts to slaughter American troops in cold blood do not faze this president. Mr. Trump brushes off the information, evades responsibility and fails to take action — not even lodging a diplomatic protest. Now Mr. Putin knows he can kill Americans with impunity.

What must we conclude from all this? At best, our commander in chief is utterly derelict in his duties, presiding over a dangerously dysfunctional national security process that is putting our country and those who wear its uniform at great risk. At worst, the White House is being run by liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical president who is actively advancing our arch adversary’s nefarious interests.

We keep recycling back to the central question. What does Russia have on Trump?

(Thanks to Sherry, our Roving Reporter.)

Friday, July 3, 2020

McSally 'will always protect those with preexisting conditions' - Politifact says 'false'.

In its Political Notebook, the Daily Star reports that fact-check website labels McSally healthcare claim ‘false’.

In a new TV spot for her reelection campaign, Sen. Martha McSally says, “Of course I will always protect those with preexisting conditions. Always.”

But one prominent fact-checking organization doesn’t think her record supports the claim.

PolitiFact.com, the nonprofit fact-checking site operated by the Poynter Institute, recently rated McSally’s June 22 ad as “false,” the second-worst rating on its Truth-O-Meter.

“Nothing in her voting record, which tracks closely with the Republican repeal-and-replace philosophy, supports this claim,” writes PolitiFact correspondent Shefali Luthra. “Meanwhile, the legislation her campaign cited to justify her stance falls short in terms of meaningfully protecting Americans with preexisting medical conditions.”

This marked the seventh time PolitiFact has scrutinized one of McSally’s statements, and her record so far from the group is two rates of “false,” four of “mostly false” and one of “half true.”

The site has yet to train its gaze on McSally’s Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly, since he entered the race, but three previous checks of statements he made as a gun-control advocate in 2015 and 2013 earned him a “half true” and two ratings of “true.”

The longer version

At politifact.com, Shefali Luthra reports that Arizona Sen. McSally makes health care pledge that contradicts past votes, policy positions. “Of course I will always protect those with preexisting conditions. Always,” the Republican said in a TV ad released June 22. Nothing could be farther from the truth. So …

McSally
McSally on pre-existing conditions

Trailing Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in one of the country’s most hotly contested Senate races, Arizona Sen. Martha McSally is seeking to tie herself to an issue with across-the-aisle appeal: insurance protections for people with preexisting health conditions.

“Of course I will always protect those with preexisting conditions. Always,” the Republican said in a TV ad released June 22.

The ad comes in response to criticisms by Kelly, who has highlighted McSally’s votes to undo the Affordable Care Act. That, he argued, would leave Americans with medical conditions vulnerable to higher-priced insurance.

The Arizona Senate race has attracted national attention and is considered a toss-up, though Kelly is leading in many polls. McSally’s attempt to present herself as a supporter of protecting people with preexisting conditions — a major component of the 2010 health law — is part of a larger pattern in which vulnerable Republican incumbents stake out positions advocating for this protection while also maintaining the GOP’s strong stance against the ACA.

McSally, who was appointed by the governor to take over John McCain’s Senate seat in 2019, used similar messaging in her failed 2018 bid for the state’s other Senate position. And President Donald Trump echoed the declaration at a June 23 rally in Phoenix, saying McSally — along with the rest of the Republican Party — “will always protect people with preexisting conditions.”

With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look. We contacted McSally’s campaign, which cited her support of a different piece of legislation, the Protect Act. But independent experts told us that legislation doesn’t satisfy the standard she sets out.

Past and present

Only one national law makes sure people with preexisting medical conditions don’t face discrimination or higher prices from insurers. It’s the Affordable Care Act.

Both as a member of the House of Representatives and as a senator, McSally has supported efforts to undo the health law — voting in 2015 to repeal it and in 2017 to replace it with the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, which would have permitted insurers to charge higher premiums for people with complicated medical histories.

“Anyone who voted for that bill was voting to take away the ACA’s preexisting condition protections,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “Sen. McSally is trying to erase history for electoral purposes.”

Especially as COVID–19 cases climb, health care— and, in particular, the ACA — has emerged as a flashpoint in the Arizona election, said Dr. Daniel Derksen, a professor of public health, medicine and nursing at the University of Arizona.

“Martha McSally has in her actions, in her votes, been pretty consistent about cutting back benefits and trying to repeal the ACA without any clear plan in mind that would protect people who gained insurance through the ACA,” Derksen added. “Her words on preexisting condition protections don’t align with any votes I’ve seen.”